A Transcendental White House

Obama, Or the Clash Of Ideas, Not Of Emotions Or Races

The Obama effect on me was that sigh of relief the day he won this historic election. Think about the real significance of this event for the black race as well as for the white and all other colors in between. For the Afro-Americans, a historic triumph with effect comparable only to that of Abrahan Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1863, which is not to be confused with Britain’s The Emancipation Act on August 1, 1834, which did not abolish servitude, but the first significant promise of freedom. 

 But this time with Obama, this is the realization of the great black dream to be set on equal footing with the white-their former master-, a dream expressed by Martin Luther King in his famous speech I HAVE A DREAM delivered on August 28,1963. This dream was more of a vision. For not far away- just two years earlier-on August 4, 1961- Obama was born to give a concrete form to this dream 45 years later which for the blacks almost an elusive dream even a few moments before he was declared the election winner last November 4. Now it’s reality; Obama becomes the first elected black President. Racial barrier to White House has been crossed, broken down. For Obama it was everything but an easy task. It took hard work and fluid intelligence for Obama from the very beginning to this symbolic victory. A graduate from the Harvard Law School, it is his education, not only emotion and passion, that brought that needed Liberation of the black Americans. Education as light of the people- this was probably what Rizal had in mind when he wrote this line, or when he was in America as he described what he saw in this country in his letter to Mariano Ponce on July 27, 1888, (25 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation) :

  “I visited the largest cities of America with their big buildings, electric lights, and magnificent conceptions. Undoubtedly America is a great country, but it still has many defects. There is no real civil liberty. In some states, the Negro cannot marry a white woman, nor a Negress a white man. Because of their hatred for the Chinese, other Asiatics, like the Japanese, being confused with them, are likewise disliked by the ignorant Americans. The Customs are excessively strict. However, as they say rightly, American offers a home too for the poor who like to work. There was, moreover, much arbitrariness. For example, when we were in quarantine.
They placed us under quarantine, in spite of the clearance given by the American Consul, of not having had a single case of illness aboard, and of the telegram of the governor of Hong Kong declaring that port free from epidemic.
We were quarantined because there were on board 800 Chinese and, as elections were being held in San Francisco, the government wanted to boast that it was taking strict measures against the Chinese to win votes and the people’s sympathy. We were informed of the quarantine verbally, without specific duration. However, on the same day of our arrival, they unloaded 700 bales of silk without fumigating them; the ship’s doctor went ashore; many customs employees and an American doctor from the hospital for cholera victims came on board.
Thus we were quarantined for about thirteen days. Afterwards, passengers of the first class were allowed to land; the Japanese and Chinese in the 2nd and 3rd classes remained in quarantine for an indefinite period. It is thus in that way, they got rid of about 200  ( or 643 coolies, according to Zaide ) Chinese, letting them gradually off board.”

So was Rizal’s taste of discrimination in the USA, a traumatic one for sure. Luckily Rizal was traveling first class- as implied in this letter- otherwise he would had been quarantined for an indefinite period and this could have changed the course of Philippine History!

Both American and British Emancipation Acts, the latter predating the former for 31 years, did not totally abolish racial discrimination and slavery, The Afro Americans though released from slavery, suffered more than a hundred years after the signing of that Emancipation Proclamation with limited civil liberties (no right of suffrage being black and being a woman, for instance),  while the more than half a million slaves in Britain’s Caribbean colonies had to wait for another four years for the most elementary liberties for the government feared that the situation would be out of control while the plantation owners feared the economy would collapse as forced labor would no longer be available. This is important to know because presently our Philippine government’s labour export policy is not genuinely based on goodwill but of fear that abolishing the OFW would only lead to our economic collapse, a fear secretly shared among our national politicians, revealed in a slip of the tongue that happened to Arroyo last 2001 in Singapore. Slave trading  being conducted in a more modern form, transported in modern vessels, revenues electronically transmitted? This is in no way to insult the OFWs but to view this phenomenon as a living proof of our government’s inefficiency and seemingly callous attitude towards its people. A government with vision works hard to keep its people at home or  to bring home those people away from home- like what South Korea did to its workers abroad. All I know is that Filipino oversea workers are driven home from time to time only because of their families and relatives, not because of their government and public officials. In truth, Filipinos abroad would never go back home because of Arroyo and Co. And even in their own host countries, they’re just ashamed to talk about our politics and political figures.

The election of Obama proved once again that with all its defects, America is still a democratic country whose face is changing with time, adapting to the challenges of all kinds in order to survive. Millions of young white American voters have opened their eyes and seen that it’s no longer sustainable to be just conservative for conservatism’s sake  and be against anyone for reason of skin color. Arguments and solutions count, not  skin color. Obama is the most palpable proof of change in the American perception. And Obama broke all the records and brought a quantum of solace for millions of Americans- and billions of people around the world. After all the paranoia brought about by the traumatic events that happened the world over in the past decades and the over-all negative effects of the unpopular Bush’s administration, it is interesting to observe that humanity did not fall into apathy and total disillusion. The way that the world favored Obama  in all the continents and reacted with euphoria and sense of release is a sign of good mental health for the world population. The archetypal need for a good and unifying leader, in short, for a hero, is still intact. On this historic day, not only the American voters, but the whole world voted for a hero, not only for an ordinary president. This explains the electricity of how the world citizens reacted to Obama’s election. In fact, if the world were allowed to cast  their votes, the results would have been more catastrophic and depressing for McCain! It’s good to know that the majority likes you. And Obama reacted just the way a hero is expected to react: a felt sense of tremendous responsibility as seen in Obama’s face and in his words. He did not dance around nor give any grandiose gesture of winning the battle. He was serious in his looks and speech. For him, the battle has just begun. There is no time to celebrate. The financial crisis, the problems at home and the all that mess that Bush has done, the world community- all these require Obama’s attention.

Most of you who are familiar with my little writings here in Bulan Observer would have already noticed that I am for a noble kind of leadership, for a leader who works hard for his/her people and values the unifying power of his/her position as a mayor or whatever, that I have been talking about redefining Bulan politics, that I am for working together as a team if we want Bulan to move forward and that we should transcend political affiliations and personal emotions when it comes to solving the problems of the town. For this reason I call Obama my Obama even if he doesn’t know me. It’s because of the kinship of our basic political ideas and attitude (don’t get me wrong for I am talking only about kinship not of talents for he has more than enough!). Now that he is building up his team, it awes and amazes  me how he approaches his bitter campaign rivals like McCain and Hillary Clinton, etc., asking them or offering them options to work with him. And that after all the mud hurled at him during those long campaigning periods! Obama is a living testimony of a leader who transcends and unites in order to solve the major problems now facing America and the world- and he is a leader who is very transparent in his ideas. This is why I see the White House more transparent and transcendental than ever with Obama moving in. And with his wise strategy, I think Obama is already ripe for his second term- even before his first term has ever started!

Back to Bulan, I ask you all political leaders and public officials to draw significant lessons from Obama’s political culture and to try to integrate them in your daily political thinking. Remember to put the town first. This is one step to transcendental politics.

For A brighter Bulan!

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer